In the public debate about how to provide security in the digital context, the dominant narrative has become increasingly entrenched pitting privacy and other human rights against public safety and national security. In practice, though, threats to privacy and other human rights can also harm public safety and security. This binary framing is therefore damaging to both sides of the equation, and creates antagonisms where mutual reinforcement is possible. Framing privacy and other human rights as antithetical to public safety and national security is not only misleading, but undermines public safety and security, as well as freedom. Raising the profile of human rights protections in existing cybersecurity policy-making is necessary to offset this trend.
Individual security is a core purpose of cybersecurity and a secure Internet is central to human rights protection in the digital context. Recognising this requires a definition of cybersecurity that states that privacy and confidentiality of information are essential to the security of people, as well as to data, especially in the digital context where physical security and digital information are linked.
Recognizing that individual security is at the core of cybersecurity means that protection for human rights should be at the center of cybersecurity policy development. Such an approach is instrumental in reminding policy-makers that cybersecurity must take into account individual security and human rights and that, as a consequence, cybersecurity policies should be human rights respecting by design.
Translating this paradigm shift into action across a diversity of policy spaces will change the conversation so that human rights are a central part of cybersecurity related decision making. To do so requires breaking down policy-silo boundaries, dislodging the dominant rights versus-security paradigm, and building evidence that human rights and cybersecurity are mutually reinforcing and interdependent.
In the context of increasing cyber vulnerability, where cybersecurity and cybercrime challenges are increasing in frequency and complexity, there is a need for all stakeholders to work together to preserve human rights, particularly privacy and free expression. Cybersecurity and human rights are complementary, mutually reinforcing and interdependent. Both need to be pursued together to effectively promote freedom and security.